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  • Facts & Stats: Educating and Explaining Bullying and Cyberbullying to Children

    April 14, 2016

    By Hilary Smith

    The age old expression, “kids will be kids,” relates to the many examples of times that we shouldn’t expect our children to act like adults in almost any given situation, especially in social settings. When the majority of us were young, teasing and playground pranks were simply a part of growing up, but with the rise of today’s technology, we’re seeing some frightening statistics when it comes to being intimidated as a youngster, especially on the internet.

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    While this unfortunate part of childhood was once contained to a schools, playgrounds or local neighborhoods, these days some of these harsh realities are being played out and then shared and spread to hundreds, thousands or even millions of people online. According to some studies, the rates and incidences of cyberbullying have tripled over the past few years and some of the effects are crippling to children affecting them in some very dangerous ways:

    • 83% of kids feel that bullying has damaged their self esteem
    • Around 75% of children believe that bullying has harmed their social life
    • 30% of victims have turned to self harming behaviors from enduring this abuse
    • Attempting suicide has been reported by 10% of victims

    Since children learn from what they see and experience, another 7% of kids have resorted to bullying other children as a result of being tormented themselves at home.

    EDUCATION & PROTECTION

    As parents, we all want to protect our children from harm, but we can’t be there for them 24/7, so the best that we can do is educate them and attempt to prepare them for the real world. The younger the potential victim, the more difficult it can be to explain this concept to children, but Kid’s Health offers this advice for explaining why bullying happens in the first place:

    • Many are being bullied at home
    • Some children want to feel in control
    • Others may be seeking a victim

    Perhaps some children believe that by belittling others they will somehow feel important, give them a sense of being superior or that they will become more popular as a result. Even worse, many forms of today’s media, from popular television sitcoms to the big screen, are portraying name-calling and shouting insults as a part of everyday, normal life.

    BECOMING BETTER THAN THE BULLY

    Some of our parents may have told us how “sticks and stones will break our bones, but words will never hurt us,” but being bullied and the resulting emotional harm it causes can be just as devastating as physical pain. In this light, it’s up to us as parents to build up our child’s self-esteem, confidence and a sense of self-worth to prepare them for this type of verbal assault.

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    Therefore, it’s important for us to reiterate some of our own parent’s advice and remind our children that many examples of being bullied are simply words and not the actual truth so they shouldn’t be taken in that type of context. That’s why it’s so important to keep an open dialogue with our children, and here’s where it get’s tricky. For example, when you ask your child “how was school,” don’t take “fine” for an answer, dig deeper. Look for changes in typical tales and participation when you ask specific questions about:

    • Events at recess, sports activities and other outdoor events
    • Participation in their most and least favorite classes
    • Transportation to and from school, walking, carpooling, on the bus, etc.
    • After school events or simply what happens after the final bell rings
    • What’s happening with their friends and inside their social circle

    When it comes to bullying, take an objective look at your child and look for things that are out-of-the norm, even simple items like the fact that they wear glasses, are unusually small or large for their size and see if they could be hiding things from the description of their day that could relate to these subtle differences.

    While obvious signs of physical abuse can be seen in the form of black eyes or bruises, emotional scars run deep and often can’t be seen on the surface. Signs of torment and bullying can include:

    • Sudden weight loss or gain that is out of the norm
    • Changes in daily patterns or behaviors
    • Withdrawal or unexpected emotional outbursts
    • Listlessness or insomnia

    In some cases, a good offense can be better than an effective defense, and this is certainly true in this case. Rather than waiting for our children to be a victim of abuse, it’s better to educate them and raise their awareness to prepare them for this very realistic potential experience.

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